My personal favorite word in the entire collection

A woman once told me that in summer she spent so much time lying around the house in a yukata that her mother asked her if she was supposed to be a jorou or something. (See yesterday's entry.) That was my first exposure to the word and I do not think it is entirely due to that woman's charms that it remains one of my favorite words -- period -- today. Its sound -- so rich, so decadent! Its kanji (女郎) -- so saucy, so impudent! And so not the original kanji.

賣春婦異名集 (Baishunfu Imyou Shuu, "A Treasury of Alternate Terms for Courtesans"), by MIYATAKE Gaikotsu (宮武外骨) -- this being the book I was mysteriously referring to yesterday -- has this to say about the word:

After abandoning native Japanese words like ukareme ("woman afloat"), saburuko ("agreeable/playful child"), and tawareme ("woman of pleasure") in favor of the Sino-Japanese keisai ("overturner of castles"), at the beginning of the Tokugawa period these keisai began to be called jorou (女郎). Deriving from the word jourou (no?) kata (上臈方), which referred to female servants of nobility, jorou was originally written (and pronounced, presumably) "上郎" and only became "女郎" later. (i.e. 上 ("upper") → 女 ("woman") -- M.)
In the Nanajuuichiban shokunin-zukushi uta-awase of just over four centuries ago, the "Crossroads Queen" is written "上臈"; [ISE Sadataka's] Ansai Zuihitsu notes: "Jorou: In earlier times this did not mean a courtesan, but could refer to any woman", and also, "Jorou used to mean 'a lady' is not part of the speech of our country's common folk" (i.e. it is Sino-Japanese); and finally, in NISHIKAWA Sukenobu's Hyakunin jorou no shinasadame ("Critical notes on 100 jorou"), ladies of every profession from "Empress" to "Streetwalker" are included.

Sorry about the cramped, parenthetical, aside-y style; I never quite know how to cram in all the interesting information and links I find while putting posts like this together. I need an editor. Or some self-control. Nah, editor.

Gaikotsu spells it ぢょろう, by the way, which is even more charming.

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